A couple of hundred of us from Denton County are in Austin this week for Denton County Day, an event held every biennium when the Texas Legislature is in session. We visit and thank our state and federal legislators for the work they do representing us. It's an important time to share the issues and challenges facing our County and to demonstrate our connectivity, support, and community.
Austin was one of the first places I associated with food trucks. I remember at one time, there were three or four that would group together in a parking lot on Congress near the 6th Street area. Not really knowing what I was seeing, I had no appreciation for the trucks or the kind of diners they attracted. Since then, the gourmet food truck culture has spread well beyond Austin. We've even had some temporary experiences with them in Denton, like last October when we held Denton's first ever Foodie Truck Festival at the A-train's Downtown Denton Transit Center. And we've dabbled here and there when a rolling chef serves at UNT for a day, along Fry St., or at the Saturday morning Community Market on Carroll at the Historical Park. One thing we've all learned is that the food trucks are worth the effort to discuss. Gourmet fare is no exaggeration!
Since we are here in Austin where the truck movement started for both of us, my colleague Karen Dickson and I decided to check out one of Austin's several permanent food truck parks when we went looking for a local dining option. Karen is the Vice President of Economic Development. The nature of our jobs has exposed both of us to the Denton discussion about the topic; so, seeing how Austin's handled the delicate balance of the trucks, their mobile parks, and the brick and mortar restaurants seemed like a tasty research project.
We drove to the once blighted South Congress area where two of the food truck parks are located. We parked and decided just to walk and soak up the sense of place. The two parks are tucked into a corridor of Austin personality. Local shops selling beatnik and hippie chic thread together some of Austin's more popular local eateries, all of which were busting at the seams during the lunch hour with patron lines out the door. People were milling about everywhere. We checked out both parks, each with around six foodie trucks peddling gourmet pizza, sandwiches, cupcakes, tacos, sushi, and more. Community market style vendors complimented the trucks in both parks, as well, featuring handmade purses and jewelry and souvenir shirts and fad items. We settled at a picnic table in the shadier of the two parks and decided on a gourmet sandwich and fresh-made chips from the "Hey...You Gonna Eat or What?" truck, renown as Austin's rudest business with the absolute best of the food truck fare. The chef, formerly well-known among New Orleans' upscale restaurants, is the real deal. He's comically rude, but believe me - you go for the food. Wow!
I used to think Austin was one of the coolest cities in Texas. Then I discovered Denton and learned how deep "cool" can go, how it can permeate and define a community culture and be the fabric of its life. Because Denton really is that cool. Austin still has spots of cool - like the food truck parks. But Denton is wholly cool. Let's keep it that way.
Oh, and the food trucks? They won't make or break us in the cool factor. But, they will absolutely be a very tasty add.